I had the privilege which I hope every playwright should have – I got to see my play performed in a different language: First Sister Cities in French…now The Affair in Italian.
Sitting in the eighth row of a gorgeous old theatre in a tiny Italian town, I got to be an anonymous patron and watch three brilliant actors portray Robert, Kathy and Stephanie…only they sounded so much classier as Roberto, Katarina and Stephania.
Gotta love the beauty of the language.
Although my Italian is spotty, I understood the show in its entirely thanks to terrific performances by Mariangela D’Abbraccio, Pino Quartullo and Chiara Noschese.
A long time believer that actors make the best directors, Chiara Noschese helmed the play flawlessly. Her pacing was EXACTLY what I like… Aaron Sorkin fast… No unnecessary precious pauses… Audience loved it. I felt incredibly grateful to watch such a beautiful realization of my show. .. And in The heart of Italy! I can see why the reviews have been so stellar. Across the board— directing, acting, set, lighting, costumes… All top notch.
Just home after a delicious Italian working vacation, the jet lag is officially coursing through my body, replacing the fresh pasta and local vino I have been wining and dining on for the last three weeks.
As I stare at my computer screen, nervously engaging with the spurned contraption with whom I am just reuniting after a necessary ‘break‘, I realize that I have wisdom to impart. Great wisdom. Traveling does that: It gets you out of your comfort zone of normalcy and gives you a brief glimpse into a peripatetic lifestyle, which contrasts your otherwise fairly settled routine. And it teaches you a thing or ten.
In between the gallons of gelato, the vats of vino and the pounds of pasta, I’ve discovered:
- There’s a Botero in the Vatican -Click To Read Blog
- Some of the best restaurants look like brothels -Click To Read Blog
- It’s okay to be a tourist -Click To Read Blog
- The Art of the Slow Meal -Click To Read Blog
- When in Rome… -Click To Read Blog
- The importance of theatre and why I love actors -Click To Read Blog
- The art of packing and why I love Scott Vests -Click To Read Blog
- All pastas are not created equal -Click To Read Blog
- The Italian Downton Abbey -Click To Read Blog
- Wine – a lesson in six bottles -Click To Read Blog
Stay tuned. In my next ten blogs, I promise to expand on each of these ten musings.
One of the best parts of growing up are those full circle, ‘ah hah’ moments which make life utterly fantastic.
Last week, I was on a panel for the NAACP play festival and enjoyed one of those moments when I discovered that I was sitting on the panel with Ted Lange, who was, like me, an actor turned playwright.
Okay…maybe not exactly like me. But he did come into my living room every Saturday night.
Growing up, I was a Love Boat and Fantasy Island fanatic. Every weekend, I’d have sleepovers with girlfriends and we’d swoon over our various shipboard crushes before being terrified once ‘Da Plane, Da Plane‘ arrived on the mystical island.
My friends all had different infatuations. A few loved Doc. Several loved Fred Grandy’s goofy Gopher. One of them with daddy issues loved Captain Stubing. But I was always devoted to Isaac Washington; The Love Boat’s bad boy bartender with a million dollar smile and a mustache that probably made Tom Selleck swoon with jealousy.
To sit on the panel with Ted, yes…I call him Ted now, was mind blowing. One of the best things about growing up is that one day, your childhood crushes can evolve into professional colleagues.
I’ll share an umbrella cocktail with you any day, Ted Lange.
We all know the voices: Howard Cosell… Ryan Seacrest… Margaret Thatcher. Whether we like them or not, we respond to them. They are distinctive, crisp, resonant. They don’t fill the silences with “hmm’s” and “uhh’s”. They are in complete control. The art of the speaking voice is one we often take for granted, as most of our collective voice appreciation is for singers who sound like Freddie Mercury or Adele.
While we can take elocution lessons and study and perfect our regular speaking voices, the reality is that some of us have it and some of us… don’t. And while the content of my radio interview is indeed passionate and perhaps even entertaining, despite its unapologetic plugs of self-promotion… it is not unique. I possess the average voice. Perhaps a tad higher, severely plagued with the “hmm’s” and “uhh’s”, not particularly commanding and a bit too cloying for the radio.
While some people have a face for radio, perhaps I have a voice for tv.
To listen to Colette Freedman’s interview with Robin Pressman for NPR- KCRB radio click HERE.
Something must be in the stars because this upcoming week is far busier than my usual ‘stay-at-home-and-write-and-drink-wine-and-write-and- watch-bad-reality-tv-and-write’ weeks.
Friday August 10th is the opening night for Sister Cities. This is the fourteenth production and the first completely African American cast. I am thrilled because thanks to Towne Street Theatre, suddenly my voice is multicultural.
Sunday August 12th is the opening of Red, one of my favorite plays by the brilliant John Logan and starring the equally brilliant Alfred Molina- who is not only a genius actor, he is also my co captain of the Brixton Belles for the November 4th Walk Against Alzheimer’s.
Speaking of Alzheimer’s, the play I am acting in at the Odyssey Theatre, Anxiety, written by the uber funny Mark Troy, is giving all of our proceeds to Alzheimer’s. We open Wednesday August 15th. And, in the middle of all of these LA openings, there is an opening for my short film Bridesmaid #3 at the New York City International Film Festival on August 13th.
It’s a good week… now, what to wear?
Every since The Brady Bunch jumped the shark with their musical numbers, I have wanted to sing on an album. I wanted shalala to It’s a Sunshine Day and groove out in bell bottoms to We Can Make the World a Whole Lot Brighter.
Thirty years later, my dream is coming true. I am singing backup on nine of thirteen tracks (that’s music speak) on the album ME LIKE ME. YOU LIKE YOU; The debut kids album of Nickella Dee.
In a business where Talent mingles at the cocktail party with It’s all who you know, I am lucky to know the uber talented Nickella Dee, who originated the role of Dallas in Sister Cities. I have been a longtime admirer of Nickella’s gift for music and lyrics and remember seeing her perform for the first time in a coffee shop six years ago. After blowing away the cappuccino crowd with her piano playing set, she then whipped out a guitar and started a second set. I knew, right then, she was going to make her mark on the music world.
Me Like Me. You Like You. is the brainchild of Nickella, a mom of two, who wanted to make a cool album kids would relate to. Having read the lyrics and sung the music, I can attest that it is a fabulous album filled with love and self-empowerment and creativity. The other backup singers are a bunch of enthusiastic and adorable kids and moms who lend an authenticity of joy and fun to the well produced album.
I started painting in ’96. I had just lost the lead in a play to a spectacularly untalented actress whom the director was screwing. It was a huge loss of illusion for someone who genuinely thought the magical world of theatre was a meritocracy. I was devastated, I was heartbroken, I was… young. Oh so very young. I couldn’t cope with my emotions, so I cried for three days. I wailed against the hypocrisy of the world and perfected the petulant pout.
I was angry, I was selfish. I was a pain in the ass to be around.
And then something motivated me to start painting. Some muse who had been sleeping deep in the recesses of my mind was awakened, probably by the spoiled, whiny kid who didn’t get the lead in the play. And the muse inspired me to paint. And I did. I poured all of my anger, sadness and fear into that painting. All of my hatred, fury, and frustration at the deep injustice which had been perpetrated…. all made its way into the canvas.
Now, sixteen years later, I still paint when I’m mad. It is my creative weapon to brandish against the world’s cruelty.
Plus, it’s a lot less caloric than downing a tub of Ben and Jerry’s and a bottle of Malbec.
I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of seeing Sister Cities performed because every time I watch it, whether it’s a 50 thousand dollar production with elaborate sets and celebrity names or a tiny fringe production with an old couch and a shelf full of vodka bottles, it surprises me. Each director, each cast, each production designer brings her own vision to the project and I, as both the writer and audience member, glean something.
Sister Cities is being done three times this summer. June at the Hollywood Fringe, July at the Pegasus Theatre up in Sonoma and August by Towne Street Theatre at the Stella Adler (an all African American version— I saw the reading for this a few months ago and it was absolutely wonderful)
I just sat in on the dress rehearsal for the Hollywood Fringe show. The director, Savannah Bloch, a recent USC graduate has the energy and chops to create something really wonderful which proves that age and experience are overrated. This early twenties recent graduate understood the complexities of the characters and really worked with the young actresses, fine tuning their performances to achieve something quite wonderful.
I feel like I know Baltimore, Dallas, Austin and Carolina intimately. The four sisters from Sister Cities are, indeed, all parts of my own psyche and watching various actresses play the parts over the last six years has been truly fascinating. Physically, no two actresses in any part have been the same; yet, they all ‘get’ the heart of the characters: Austin’s strength and vulnerability, Carolina’s desperate need to hold on and eventual ability to let go, Dallas’s inability to see and her deep insight and Baltimore’s equal passion and aloofness. Like the actresses before them, Katie, Heldine, Kira and Emily have beautifully embraced these qualities and made the characters their own. And Cynthia has done a lovely job as Mary, especially in her delivery of the game changing spider monologue.
This all female fringe cast and crew has done really wonderful work and have already been rewarded in a nice review from BACKSTAGE WEST and, hopefully, by fringe audiences who will support the show.
Sometimes, the best monologues don’t actually make the final play.
When working on the final drafts of my play Blind Spots, there was a lot of terrific collaboration between me and director Elise Robertson. Give and Take. To and Fro. And it broke both of our hearts, but we knew we had to lose “The Pink Coat” monologue: As they say in all writing, sometimes you have to ‘kill the kids’. While “The Pink Coat” monologue was one of my favorite speeches in Blind Spots, it ended up not fitting into the final direction of the play. So I had to kill it… relegating to one of my innumerable files entitles ‘dead monologues’
Almost exactly a year later, “The Pink Coat” is being published in a book for monologues for young women.
Not bad for a dead monologue.
The last time I was in New York, I did my usual eat/drink/theatrical tour of the city. New York is my favorite place to see theatre because the variety is tremendous, the talent is spectacular and the audience exuberance can’t be beat. I generally see as many musicals as I can because no one does big budget musicals like The Great White Way; yet, as a playwright, I like to see the best of the best when it comes to straight plays… especially Off Broadway gems… like Nina Raine’s Tribes.
Barrow Street Theatre is one of my favorite Off Broadway theatres. An intimate 199 seat theatre with an easily adaptable stage, it’s located in the West Village surrounded by cute restaurants, overpriced shops and my favorite street in the city, Bleecker Street.
Tribes is a play about family dysfunction at its best. Like his hearing brother and sister, Billy is is a deaf man who has yet to leave his uber intellectual, constantly bickering middle-class family’s home. With three twenty somethings still living at home with their ornery, over achieving father and frustrated, over pleasing mother, conflict is rife from the start. Fabulously acted across the board, the play thrives at Barrow Street Theatre where it is staged in the round. The direction is fantastic and there did not seem to be a bad seat in the house. When Billy speaks, and later signs, mixed media shows up on the stage and the walls, subtitling his words. Billy’s family is a fantastic mix of the seven deadly sins; yet, they are all incredibly likable despite…or, in fact, in spite of their flaws. The parents relationship with their three children is disturbingly honest and the entire clan talks rapidly at rather with each other. It is only in the scenes between the brothers that the pacing slows and true honestly emerges… incidentally, those were the only scenes which were a bit treacly for me… but that could just be me… not the play). When Billy meets Sylvia, who is going deaf herself…he learns how to sign and discovers the true lack of communication in his own home. There are many other small plot lines interwoven in the complex story, but the story is less about being deaf than about the lack of communication amongst the hearing.
Brilliantly acted, beautifully directed and smartly produced, Tribes is the definition of what a good play can be. Next time you’re in New York… walk uptown past the TKS line and the bright lights of Broadway…to 50th street, grab the 1 train downtown to Christopher Street and see Tribes.